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University student Kristen Wiig gained outstanding research experience in AIDS-related nutrition at the University of Ghana in West Africa.
One size does not fit all: U leads way in international programs that meet stude
U leads the way in international programs that meet student needs
By Gayla Marty and Pauline Oo
Originally published on August 17, 2004
Lucas Rulff, an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, doesn't waste time. One fall semester, he earned credit for four of the core classes in his business administration degree--at Vaxjo University in Sweden. He got so much out of the experience that he decided to stay an extra term to take Swedish culture courses. Rulff is an example of why the number of UMD business students earning credit abroad has jumped from 8 to 39 in the last four years.
College students are studying abroad in greater numbers than ever before, despite everything from terrorist attacks to SARS. But the most dramatic change is that students are getting study abroad credit in more majors--from technology and business to agriculture and health sciences--in addition to traditional majors like languages, area studies, and the arts.
The University of Minnesota is leading the way in what's called "curriculum integration." It's a trend in which faculty and academic advisers identify high-quality programs abroad that will earn credit for students in their colleges.
"As we set about the task of trying to revitalize undergraduate education, we felt that study abroad needed to be very much at the center of that picture," says University president Bob Bruininks.Using this approach, the University of Minnesota, Morris, increased its number of students earning credit abroad by 41 percent, from 113 in 1998-99 to 160 in 2002-03. Twin Cities campus numbers increased in the same period by 62 percent, from 715 to 1,159, and the Duluth campus tripled its number from 105 to 317. Crookston went from 0 to 11.
- At the University of Ghana in West Africa, Kristen Wiig researched her honors thesis in nutrition by interviewing HIV-positive patients about their diets. Wiig, an undergraduate on the Twin Cities campus, fulfilled several requirements at once and gained outstanding research experience in AIDS-related nutrition.
- Laura Anderson from Crookston wanted to student-teach in a diverse urban environment. She achieved her goal in the bustling city of Milan, Italy, where she completed her student teaching with children ages 4 to 11 from all over the world.
- Last May, it was autumn in New Zealand when 22 students from the Morris campus lived for three weeks in a Maori community--internationally renowned as an educational, political, and economic success story among First Nations people. Two Morris professors had designed an intensive, comparative course on Maori and Native American cultures, and their students learned first-hand how the Maori advocate for community development white maintaining a strong cultural identity.
In the past, study abroad offices designed and marketed most of their programs directly to students, leaving it up to the students to figure out how to make programs fit into their academic schedules and programs and to negotiate credit. Today, the same study abroad offices are working with faculty members and academic advisers to identify study abroad options that will fulfill college major and degree requirements.
The nationally recognized "Minnesota model" requires options that fit for students academically, financially, and developmentally. It also requires advising that pays attention to students' personal, academic, and career motivations.
"As we set about the task of trying to revitalize undergraduate education, we felt that study abroad needed to be very much at the center of that picture," says University president Bob Bruininks. "Internationalizing the curriculum is about transforming the student experience--transforming, in a real sense, the kind of contributions we make to the development of our students as they study with us and also as they go out into the world."
Because students are earning credit, financial aid can apply to their international programs. The University of Minnesota has allocated more funding for scholarships for learning abroad.
As a result, students don't have to delay graduation to participate. They know up front how much credit they'll earn. They're motivated to gain international skills and experience relevant to their academic and career plans. They also get the time-tested benefits of cross-cultural and often foreign language exposure, which give them confidence and an edge in the job market.
The University's success is getting attention. Last April, in response to widespread interest, the U hosted a conference to talk about its model and share ideas. The event drew 386 participants from 120 institutions in 7 countries. Participants included 70 upper-level administrators, 80 faculty members, and 60 academic advisers, in addition to study abroad professionals.
"This conference is a defining moment in study abroad," said keynote speaker Kathleen Sideli, president of the national Forum on Education Abroad. "The University's work is a landmark project."